Tourism authorities super-responsive to service issues as Harbin chill radiates

Wan Lixin
With Harbin as a sensational winter tourist mecca continuing to inspire admiration and emulation, many domestic tourist destinations are going out of their way to woo visitors.
Wan Lixin

With Harbin – in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province – as a sensational winter tourist mecca continuing to inspire admiration and emulation, many tourist destinations across the country are going out of their way to woo visitors.

In this unusual exuberance local tourism administrations have demonstrated an unusual responsiveness to service complaints, and their zest and near-zero tolerance of misconduct in the sector suggest the current fervor, by catalyzing general improvements in tourist services, might last well into the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday period.

Tourism authorities super-responsive to service issues as Harbin chill radiates

Tourists have fun at Harbin Ice-Snow World in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. Many regions in China, inspired by Heilongjiang's tourism boom, have followed suit, taking a series of measures to improve their dining, accommodation, travel, shopping and entertainment services.

For instance, the short video account of the Hebei Culture and Tourism Department used to go by the rather bland name of "Hebei Luyou," but upon hearing online complains that it is not an easily thought of entry on search engine, the official account quickly changed its name, sending its daily updates soaring to 70, predominantly service-related.

In Jilin Province, the local tourism authority not only renamed its social account, but has begun inviting celebrities to help promote local destinations, with a number of local tourism chiefs engaged in livestreaming promotion themselves.

The results are palpable. For instance, orders for destinations in the northeastern province rose 92 percent.

With Jilin's Changbai Mountains, a favorite destination for skiing and sightseeing, earning rave reviews on a number of social media accounts, this winter tourist mecca is also taking a leaf from Harbin's recent sensation. Local drivers have recently formed a Xiaojindou fleet, consisting of 150 private cars who carry tourists for free.

As a result, the share price of Changbai Mountains on the domestic stock market gained more than 143 percent after 13 days of trading ending on January 15.

In the culture-heavy Henan Province, bullet train travelers arriving at the Luoyang Station are greeted by lines of majestic warriors in antiquated military pomp, attired in armor and helmets and holding spears.

In fact, visitors to some tourist destinations have a chance to enjoy a lighter moment, as they can appreciate "Yuju," classical local Henan drama, for free, with the gaudy dramatic attire forming a stark contrast to the pervading ice and snow.

Henan has also entered into a partnership with neighboring Shanxi Province whereby more than 114 Class A scenic spots promise to form an alliance that will grant free entry respectively to residents from designated cities.

Tourism authorities super-responsive to service issues as Harbin chill radiates

Hengdaohezi Town in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province is becoming a tourism hotspot after local authorities ordered all government institutions and business operators to make their toilets freely accessible to all visitors following complaints of a lack of toilets and poor conditions.

In Hengdaohezi Town in Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang, which is known for its snow scene and the well-preserved 256 Russian-style buildings dating back to 1902-1904, some tourists complained about a lack of toilets and poor conditions. The local tourism administration immediately ordered that all government institutions and business operators should make their toilets freely accessible to all visitors.

Recently one netizen reported having received monetary compensation of 2,400 yuan (US$340) for reporting some issue encountered while traveling in Guizhou. Although local authorities had been canvassing for such ideas with a promise of financial incentives, the netizen was still quite surprised at actually receiving the sum.

Shandong Province is also offering preferential prices to tourists who arrive by the newly opened Jinan-Zhengzhou bullet train, so that within three days of their arrival, the tourists can visit a number of scenic sights in eastern province at preferential rates, up to 50 percent of the original price.

Elsewhere, Fujian Province has announced that entry for visitors to Mount Wuyi would be free until April 30.

In the Tibet Autonomous Region, it was announced that before March 15, visits to the ancient Potala Palace will be free, though appointment would still be needed.

During the recent three-day New Year holiday, some kindergarten children aged 3 to 6 from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region also created quite a sensation on their arrival at Harbin Taiping International Airport on December 31.

Attired in orange dawn jackets and lugging an orange luggage, the 11 pupils were embarking on a study tour, in an attire style clearly indicating sugar oranges, a local fruit favored across the country during this season.

With the kids so lionized in many of their itinerant stops, local Guangxi producers, riding the fervor, sent hundreds of tons of such oranges to the northeast for free sampling, while over 200 scenic areas in the autonomous region launched preferential policies for tourists from the northeast.

So far so good.

If the current momentum can be sustained, its trickle-down effect on the national economy should not be underestimated.

The adroit leveraging of tourist sentiment via social platforms has an amplifying effect that's something quite new to the new era, and this is a lesson yet to be fully learned by other government departments across the country, suggesting more potential in the exploitation of domestic consumption.

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